Ever heard of the horizon? It is a place where the land and the sky meet. However, my Darjeeling diaries have a different notion on horizons. Here, the land reaches out to the sky and actually seems to meet it. The planning for a trip to Darjeeling never took long, as I was already so acquainted with Darjeeling.
It has always been like going to the suburban areas of the city. In this solo trip where my only motive was to set my mind free, I discovered a lot about my potential and explored how beautiful nature’s creations can be. The overall planning started from Kolkata which can be anybody’s most favorable point to start with if you are coming from somewhere else. Darjeeling can be unpredictable and I had a lot of expectation for the journey to be lucky for me. I had chosen the right time of early July to be extra assured regarding the climate’s wrath. Keeping my fingers crossed, I started off with an empty slate to fill with experience to cherish about.
I did not intend to tire myself for the adventure packed short trip, so I avoided driving all the way. I took a train to New Jalpai Gudi (NJP). I had some plans to board a toy train to Darjeeling but the plan failed miserably as all the tickets were sold out for the morning. With a heavy heart but optimistic mindset, I took an early morning bus to Darjeeling. The busses in the morning are abundant and the rates are as low as 100 INR per head. The bus journey was slow yet beautiful with clouds slowly getting denser as I went up to Darjeeling. I got down at the main bus station and took a shared SUV to a nearby hotel. Darjeeling has always been kind to its visitors and natives with a lot of great arrangements for food and shelter.
I was lucky here to get into a decent room at a low price. It was already half of the day and I wanted to make the most of it. The first day felt a little tiring already because I had a bad timing of transport. I chose to explore the Tibetan monasteries around Darjeeling. It is largely influenced by Tibetan culture as most of the natives and monks hail from Tibet, who traveled as refugees long ago. I had a good time exploring my spirituality and the making of the monasteries. I had divided my remaining afternoon and evening time with the Samten, Bhutia Busti, and Aloobari monasteries which come under the radius of 5 to 15 kilometers of Darjeeling town. The traveling to these places was easy with shared SUVs. The first day seemed to belong, but I kept a little bit of energy in me flowing to taste the local food in the town. I skipped my dinner at the hotel and went to the nearby market for trying out the traditional street food. Finally, a long day came to rest.
I knew the next day had a lot for me in store. I had made a plan beforehand on how I would like to spend the Sunday. The morning kicked off at 4:30 AM, the reason being I had timed the sunrise at the tiger hill to be at 6:30 AM sharp in the time of July. I took a shared SUV to tiger hill which was extremely reasonable. It dropped me off at the point right at 6 AM for me to get ready with the camera. Believe it or not, I have to say that the sight of sunrise was a pure show of magic from that place. The smaller hills covered with snow seemed to glisten with the sun rays hitting their surface. The sun never looked better to me. The whole thing lasted for about 10 to 15 minutes of pure bliss. When the timing was perfect and the weather was kind to me, I realized this trip is being extremely lucky for me. After the amazing time spent there, I took a bus down the hill to the nearby tea garden of Alubari. I am not a regular tea drinker but I was fascinated with the variety in cultivation. I tried out some of their samples and also got myself a few packets of Darjeeling famous tea. Although, the major reason for me being there is to click some great pictures for my album. The greenery around the tea garden is truly mesmerizing.
I had planned the other half of the day to be used up in adventure sports only, but I really wanted to add the experience of toy train while I was in Darjeeling. It is regarded as one of the heritage status properties of India awarded by UNESCO, which is why it is privileged to get a ride on it. I had discovered that there are 2-way tickets available for the ride on the toy train, so I added the toy train experience with an extra 2 hours to spend. The toy train covered the parts of Darjeeling to Ghum and returned back to the same pickup point. During its course of time, it covered the Himalayan Railway Museum and the parts of Singalila National park. The whole experience was above 12,000ft of altitude. I got to see most of the flora and fauna on my way up there for which the land of Darjeeling is popular. Some of the common sightings were of Rhododendrons, Magnolias, and oaks along with wild cats, leopards, and barking deer. Summing it up, the toy train experience worked like a summary to the heritage of Darjeeling. I compromised with the adventure sports with the remaining part of the day to adjust the time. I had a glance of the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute and later tried my hands on the mountain bike trekking to end the day in my hotel room.
Reluctant to leave, I wanted more time exploring Darjeeling. Although, the trip rewarded me with a lot of things to cherish for a long time. This tiring trip gifted me a lot more than what met the eyes.